Oregon State Beavers vs Utah Utes, 10/1/2022, 12:07pm MTN
Utah 42 – Oregon State 16, Attendance: 51,729
Weather: Sunny, 62; Ticket: $185 (Face $75), Parking: $20
“Wait, they do tailgate in Utah after all”
The University of Utah is in Salt Lake City, Utah. A small city, at a population of roughly 200,000 getting to Salt Lake City is easier than you think. There seem to be a fair number of direct flights, particularly west of the Mississippi. Being the center of the Church of Latter-Day Saints seems to make it a popular hub. Despite the small size of the greater metropolitan area, we found a hotel about 15 minutes from campus and the stadium. Still, I recommend renting a car. We were able to walk to local bars and restaurants based on our hotel location but needed a car to get to the stadium. The scenery in the area is spectacular and we easily found hiking options nearby (we recommend the Timpanogos Cave hike). Park City is close by for more hiking and skiing. There’s also the great Salt Lake, that quite frankly did not seem that great from a distance. And, of course, there are plenty of Mormon temples to visit if you’d like.
Rice-Eccles Stadium sits on the Utah campus. The combination of flying in and an early morning kick made for a light tailgate on our end. The prime lot tailgate lot is the Guardian Lot which is a permit lot. We were relegated to the Merrill Engineering lot which was $20 and a 10-minute walk to the stadium. We were assured there would be tailgating in that lot and there was. There was also a lot of empty space. There weren’t many folks there and some of those put their tailgate tents adjacent to the lot. It was actually a pretty nice set up if you had a large group and all the gear. We also got the tip that the Engineering Building was open with access to the bathrooms. It was a nice little perk. The folks we met at that lot were very nice and we were offered plenty of free food and beer to supplement the sandwiches we brought. Consistently though, we were told we need to check out the Guardian Lot. We packed up around 11am and then made the pleasant stroll through the campus to the stadium, crossing a number student clubs and some low-key marketing. There was plenty of stuff for the kids and some free donuts. Once we got to the stadium, we ventured across the street into the Guardian lots. The tailgating there was as good as I have seen anywhere. There were lots of custom rigs and plenty of fans. Like the upper lots, the fans were very friendly, offering more food and drink. I guess because it was a noon kick, but on top of Fireball shots, we were offered donuts again and again. This tailgate was so fun, even the police joined in, playing corn hole with some of the fans. Honestly, it was impressive and certainly one of the best for the PAC-12.
Rice-Eccles is a medium-sized stadium so just about any seat is probably going to be a good one. However, we decided to treat ourselves to some really good seats, splurging $185 for 50 yard line seats halfway up with seatbacks. Having only spent $26 for our tickets at BYU the day before, I guess we were feeling flush and wanted to treat ourselves. The fact that it was a sell-out and our late purchase also contributed to the price. The stadium has three video boards of varying quality. Like much of the schools in the western mountain ranges – it is a nice setting. Although, I would say BYU’s LaVell Edward’s stadium is more dramatic. We were facing the sun and even at 62, we were happy to have the shade roll in just before half-time. The concessions were well run, with maze ques to speed up the process. The actual menu was standard stadium grub. Consistent with the efficient food service, the restrooms were clean and plentiful. Fan attire was standard college issue, mostly jeans and sweatshirts for everyone.
The Utah Utes have a few traditions. The stadium was used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Accordingly, before the start of each game, they light the “Flame.” It is not something you see at other stadiums. Another notable thing was the number of fans holding Utah flags in the stadium. I am not talking about someone holding a flag in the stands or hanging one over a stadium wall. Instead, these are long extension flag poles waving in the breeze. It is a cool effect from a distance, though I am not sure I would like to be right next to one in the stadium. The stadium was loud, fueled by the M.U.S.S., the Mighty Utah Student Section. The fans make a U. symbol by putting their thumbs together, like the University of Miami gesture. In agreement with the Ute Indian Tribe, Utah eliminated their warrior mascot and introduced Swoop, the red-tailed hawk in 1996. The band is good and I believe their audio was piped into the stadium sound system. It further enhanced the atmosphere.
Fans we met mentioned that the M.U.S.S. often sings songs as well. When the stadium sound system played “Mr. Brightside”, I fully expected them to cut the audio on the chorus and then hear the student body belt it out. Either they missed their cue or it is not as big a tradition as advertised. I was at Wyoming earlier that year, and the Cowboy student section put out a much more robust version. The Utah Ute’s best tradition, however, is their most recent one. The Moment of Loudness was created after the deaths of running back Ty Jordan and defensive back Aaron Lowe in the years 2020 and 2021. Rather than a moment of silence, the fans are asked to be loud in memory of Jordon and Lowe at the start of the fourth quarter. There’s an emotional video montage played and then the crowd roars. It is an outstanding tradition even if it is only a couple of years old.
Oregon State came into this game at 3-2 and Utah was at 4-1. We hoped this meant it would be good game. It was a rough start for the Beavers as they quickly turned the ball over via an interception which it then took Utah all of three plays to punch in for a touchdown. Oregon State answered, however, with their own long touchdown drive. They then held the Utes to a three and out, but the Beavers threw a pick on the next possession. However, the Utah offense couldn’t capitalize. They finally managed a score at the end of the 1st quarter, leaving the score 14 – 7 Utes. The Utes had another pick, but the Beaver defense stiffened again. The second quarter was a competitive back and forth with a key difference. The Utes were scoring touchdowns and the Beavers were hitting field goals. While it was a competitive score of 21-13 at the half, Oregon State’s inability to get into the end zone and the turnover trend were definite warning signs of a blowout.
The second half was just that. The Utes started out poorly, being held to another three and out. The Beavers drove down and scored another field goal. It was getting tight. Probably too tight because the Utes then started to roll. They scored three straight times while Oregon State gave up another couple of picks. It was a methodical beat down, with the Utes winning 42-16. This was a very good Utah team that ended up going up winning the PAC-12 and going to the Rose Bowl to play Penn State. The Utes, in general, have been a very strong program as of late.
The Utah Utes for years have had an older female fan that would do crazy dancing routines between the third and fourth quarter. The tradition was started by “Bubbles” aka Judy Lagerstrom and then continued by “Crazy Lady” Terri Jackson. Alas, it appears father time has brought an end to the tradition as we did not witness the event. Or maybe we just missed it. The most unusual thing to me about Utah was the stark contrast to BYU games just down the road in Provo. Perhaps not so much different when it comes to the games and stadiums, but there is certainly a difference in the tailgating. The Utes tailgating scene in the Guardian lot is top tier. BYU tailgating, on the other hand, is virtually non-existent. The tailgating is so strong, I saw Ute mom sitting outside the Utah bookstore with her toddler, pregaming a mini bottle of Fireball while waiting on the rest of the family to come out of the shop. She either needed it to get through the game or more likely, was just warming up.
BYU may have better stadium aesthetics, but Utah is not bad by any stretch. The traditions at Rice-Eccles are outstanding, especially the “Moment of Loud.” It is both rousing and heartfelt at the same time. It as good as college traditions get. The program is great, and the tickets are not too bad. It is very close to a must see but it is perhaps just a bit below that criteria. However, a doubleheader weekend BYU is an excellent option. And not to worry, if your trip is only a solo visit to Rice-Eccles, you won’t be disappointed – just be ready for the donuts and Fireball.